For more than a decade Ian Hefele has roamed the world capturing his thoughts in The (Mis) Adventures of Me. The five languages in his repertoire (Spanish, Germany, Afrikaans, Portuguese and Arabic) not only make travelling and blending in easier, they also enable Ian to teach and train overseas.
He currently lives and works in Namibia and will share his thoughts on travelling in Africa in future posts. Before we welcome him as a guest contributor here a little more about this not so quiet American.
Describe your relationship with travelling. Have you always been a globetrotter? When did you start and has your way of travelling evolved?
Travelling has been a part of my life since I first left the States in 1996 on a short trip to London, England where my sister was studying abroad whilst in college. I spent a week there with my grandma and was just enthralled and captivated by everything going on in London.
I didn’t leave the States again until 1999 when I spent a year living in Germany to discover my roots. While in Germany, I took advantage of the Deutsche Bahn’s ‘Schönes Wochenende’ ticket [a dirt cheap rail tickets to get around over the weekend] and traveled the country.
I loved how I could cross international boundaries and language boundaries as if I were crossing state lines back in America. I finally broke out of western travel destinations in 2002 when I traveled to Central America and lived in Costa Rica and Guatemala. I haven’t looked back since.
Which places have you already been to and which ones are you still keen to see?
I’m 30 years old and have stayed overnight on every continent except Antarctica. I LOVE Southern Africa and would still love to explore Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Here is a list of countries I’ve been to so far.
- Costa Rica
- Northern Ireland
- The Netherlands
- Czech Republic
- South Africa
Has travelling, living and working in different places around the world changed you? How?
Travelling has opened my eyes to the world. It has helped me to view the world through the eyes of other cultures and my adaptability leaves many wondering where I’m actually from. It also has me appreciate the immense privilege I enjoy when I am back home in the States.
What gives you itchy feet?
Sometimes, in the hectic pace of American culture, I find myself longing for the time when getting two things accomplished outside the house in a day made me happy. When I’m traveling, I also feel that I can listen to the rhythm of this beautiful planet because I have more time and I don’t fall prey to the distractions of Western culture.
Tell us about your favourite travel moment.
I really can’t travel pinpoint a specific travel moment but I describe a feeling that I have had in multiple countries and this is what fuels me to travel further. I am usually sitting around a BBQ or some meal with close friends, there are lots of laughs, good music and always some dancing. The atmosphere brings us closer together as we share travel stories and realise what is really important in life.
And what was your worst travel experience?
My worst travel experience (or emotionally the hardest) had to be in Belize. I was traveling with two friends. We got to Belize City after dark and headed to the ATM to pull out money for our trip. This was 2003, and Belize’s banks weren’t connected to the international bank network so none of our cards worked.
We ended up going to the casino in town and getting a cash advance at 18%!! But only one friend’s card worked, so we were all working off of her. The tensions were high because we couldn’t keep going to the casino and our bank cards worked nowhere else. Not even at Barclay’s Bank. It was a testing time for our friendships and when we got back to Guatemala, we were finally able to pull out money again.
Many people (that I know) identify money (or lack thereof) as the biggest hurdle to travelling. Do you think this is true? What’s your biggest hurdle and how do you tackle it?
As you see from my previous answer, money is a big hurdle, but I try to not let it rule my life. My parents once told me that money should be a tool in life, not a goal. That is how I try to treat it when I travel. I know I need at least a little bit of this tool to be able to travel, so I try to have some on me.
But, my biggest hurdle is now that I am married [congratulations!!!]. My husband has a great job at home and American companies have a different view of vacation time from the rest of the world. 3 weeks per year, if you are lucky.
Traveling has taken a new dimension for me because while it is still fun to be abroad by myself, it is even more fun when Adam can do it with me. He’s not traveled as much as I have and seeing the wonderment in his eyes as he sees things for the first time makes me want to travel all over again.
When you close your eyes and think of home, what do you see?
The people I care about. That is a tactic I have developed to combat some homesickness that I’ve experiences over the years. But, now, I also see Vermont. It is such a quirky, wonderful, little State where people travel when they can and for such a small population (650,000), there is a definite international flare.